THE Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency on Monday identified three powerful Chinese triad groups as the country’s biggest source of methamphetamine hydrochloride, better known as shabu.
PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino, in a press statement, named the United Bamboo Gang (Bamboo Triad), the Hong Kong based 14K Triad and the Sun Yee On Triad as the biggest supplier of shabu in the local market. They are also involved in the global illegal drugs trade.
Aquino noted that these triad groups, who have their roots in dialect groups and trade guilds or political movements, are now responsible for much of the world’s drug trafficking and vice establishments, and are among the most powerful Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) in the world.
“The Bamboo triad, which is based in Taiwan, was formed during the 1950s. Their members are engaged in almost every illegal activity imaginable, from prostitution, gambling, extortion to gunrunning, human trafficking and illegal drug smuggling on a worldwide scale,” Aquino said.
He also disclosed that triad members are actively operating in United States of America, Canada, Britain, France and Australia, as well as virtually every country in Asia, including the Philippines.
On the other hand, Aquino said, the 14K Triad was founded in Guangzhou, China in 1945 as an anti-communist task force.
Four years later, it relocated to Hong Kong following the nationalist defeat by communist forces in the Chinese civil war. Today, it exert considerable influence over West Kowloon, Yuen Long and Kwun Tong.
Sun Yee On Triad, meanwhile, started in Hongkong in 1919. Presently, it is based in mainland China and Macau and has more than 55,000 members worldwide.
Sun Yee On Triad is said to be the most organized and wealthiest triad society, Aquino said.
At the same time, Aquino revealed that the 14K and Sun Yee On Triads are arch-rivals with a propensity for violence. Both are supplying Mexico’s Sinaloa Drug Cartel–a dangerously powerful international drug trafficking organization based in Mexico City–with raw materials needed to manufacture shabu, as demand skyrockets.
According to the PDEA chef, ties between these triads and Sinaloa cartel were outlined in a report by the Mexican Attorney General’s Office in 2013.
Moreover, he bared that the details of the Sinaloa Drug Cartel connection in the country was discovered in the wake of the confiscation of some PhP420 million worth of shabu during a joint PDEA-Philippine National Police Christmas Day raid in 2013 at a game fowl ranch in Lipa City. The ranch was leased by Mexican nationals who are allegedly members of the drug cartel.
The Mexican ties of the triads were further confirmed, Aquino said, after Horacio Herrera Hernandez, reportedly a high-ranking member of Sinaloa Drug Cartel, was arrested during a buy-bust operation in front of a restaurant along Makati Avenue, Barangay Poblacion, Makati City on January 11, 2015.
The PDEA chief also cited that on January 6 and 13, 2012, three clandestine shabu laboratories were dismantled in Ayala Alabang Village, Muntinlupa City. Seized during the operation were unfinished shabu and controlled precursors and essential chemicals (CPECs) used in producing shabu worth P53 million.
“Intelligence reports indicated the participation of 14K Triad in the dismantled shabu laboratories based on various financial documents such as money transfer receipts, bank accounts, deposit slips to various banks and telegraph transfer receipts to Mexico that were recovered in the operation,” Aquino said.
Not only do they operate land based laboratories, Aquino observed, these DTOs can also ship up to three tons of shabu into the country either through shipside smuggling in the high seas, or airports and seaports.
“In ship side smuggling, these DTOs cook their shabu in the high seas, dumped their contrabands overboard and retrieve them afterwards through nets as evidenced by the discovery of a floating shabu laboratory off the coast of Zambales on July 12, 2016. To recall, two tons of cocaine bricks were reportedly thrown overboard into the waters of Eastern Samar by a Chinese vessel in 2009,” Aquino said.
“They also deliver illegal drugs in nearby coastal areas and bury them to be recovered by their local contacts,” Aquino said, referring to the 180 kilos of shabu worth P900 million that were unearthed in Barangay Culao, Claveria, Cagayan on July 3, 2016.
The Chinese triads found the Philippines as a possible market and transshipment point for shabu because of the country’s vulnerability, particularly its porous borders and vast coastlines, a factor in the undetected movement of illegal drugs through shipment.
Aquino said the PDEA and other law enforcement agencies are gaining ground on the members of DTOs with the recent arrests of Chinese nationals during anti-drug operations.
Members of the DTOs have also abandoned chemicals used in the shabu production along the stretches of Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) to avoid detection.
“These three drug triads are making the Philippines their playground. They are resorting to drug smuggling, either finished product or raw materials, and cook shabu in high seas because of the dismantling of several major shabu laboratories offshore lately.”
The Ninoy Aquino International Airport Inter-Agency Drug Interdiction Task Group (NAIA-IADITG) led by PDEA is strengthening its efforts to intercept the trafficking and transit of illegal drugs in the country’s major airports.
To curb drug smuggling through the ports, the PDEA will establish seaport interdiction units in its regional offices and enhance cooperation with the Philippine Navy and Philippine Coast Guard to seal off our waters from illegal drugs, Aquino vowed.